Blue Christmas

And just like that, it’s winter. Christmas is three weeks away, we’re about to have our third general election in five years, and we’re hurtling towards the end of a decade – and our membership of the European Union.

I’m tentatively tiptoeing into the festive period and, as is often the case for me at this time of year, I feel more flat than festive. It’s hardly surprising considering the state of UK politics because, in my eyes, Boris is the Grinch and he’s stolen Christmas. Will he be visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come and change his ways? Will it be a blue Christmas in more ways than one? Shall I stop with the Christmas analogies?

Nevertheless, Christmas will persist, and amidst the parties and panic buying, I have a book to write. It’s been a long time in the making, but last week I was finally able to share the news that my second cookery book will be published next spring. The Seasonal Vegan is my collection of recipes inspired by – you’ve guessed it – seasonal fruit and vegetables, and you can pre-order it here.

As I’ve been somewhat preoccupied with recipes (the writing, cooking, testing and photographing of them) for the book, I haven’t had much time to concentrate on much else. If you’ve been missing me, here’s a little sweet treat to tide you over until I’ve handed in my manuscript – and for a bit of comfort eating during these dark days.

For this sweetly spiced loaf cake, I used a pumpkin which I bought back in October; they’re hardy things and last a long time. Pumpkins and squash are just about still in season, but you could use squash if you can’t get hold of them.

Spiced pumpkin loaf
Spiced pumpkin loaf (bad photo, good cake)

Spiced pumpkin loaf

Makes 1 medium-sized loaf

Ingredients

For the pumpkin puree

500g pumpkin or squash, peeled and chopped into small chunks, seeds removed

50g brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp maple syrup

 

For the loaf

225g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

150g brown sugar

2 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp cinnamon

1 apple, cored and grated

50ml vegetable, olive, sunflower or coconut oil (plus a little bit extra for greasing the loaf tin)

100ml plant milk

2 tbsp maple syrup

A pinch of salt

 

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the pumpkin for 15-20 minutes, until tender. Drain, then return to the pan, add the sugar, cinnamon and maple syrup and mash using a potato masher or fork. Set to one side.

Preheat the oven to 200C. In a large bowl, add the flour, baking powder, spices, sugar and grated apple and mix together. Add the milk and combine, then add the oil and do the same. Spoon in the pumpkin puree, maple syrup and salt and then stir well. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan (or line with greaseproof paper) and pour in the cake mixture, making sure to spread it evenly. Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool, then serve in slices. This will keep in an airtight container for about two days after baking.

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